By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
No. 15: March 4, 1972 – The Sabres trade Eddie Shack to Pittsburgh for Rene Robert.
Sabres general manager Punch Imlach completed plenty of transactions during the team’s first few years on the job. That included an odd episode in June, 1971, concerning the now-departed Intra-League Draft. Imlach found a loophole in which he could ping-pong players around his roster in order to build up depth. That’s how Ray McKay and Danny Lawson became Sabres. One player was picked by the Sabres in that procedure, only to be lost to Pittsburgh a few picks later. His name was Rene Robert.
Imlach didn’t forget Robert, a good minor league scorer who hadn’t been given much of a chance at the NHL level. Late in the season, the Penguins agreed to send Robert back to the Penguins for veteran Eddie Shack. Robert scored nine points in 12 games for Buffalo during the rest of the regular season. Then his scoring really took off.
Robert was a great fit on a line with Rick Martin and Gil Perreault, a trio that picked up the name “The French Connection.” The right winger scored 40 goals in 1972-73 and became the team’s first 100-point scorer in 1974-75. You can see Robert’s number in the rafters of the KeyBank Center now, and you can see a statue of him outside the building. For about 20 years, this was the standard as the greatest trade in Sabre history.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)